Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Burnt Rubber

I joined a biker gang yesterday.

We've decided we're going to meet on Sunday nights, and our agenda involves cruising the strip, intimidating other gangs and trying to fly under police radar. Last night was talking plans, talking initiation, talking possible tats that we could get to show our dedication and our street cred - but we still found time to roll Center St and show our solidarity and our intentions. Watch out, Provo! Burnt Rubber is here.

I bought my first road bike on my 15th birthday, in 2002. It was a silver-and-yellow Giant OCR3 which I outgrew much too quickly. It had Sora components and a compact geometry that was perfect for agility but left me feeling hesitant on the epic downhills I love. I rode that for two years, upgrading to my current bicycle on my 17th birthday - a white Cannondale R1000 which I've tweaked and modded far away from its original pretentions. Carbon fiber and titanium are draped over it in an array best described by my high-school motto:
I have money, and I need to spend it.

I've ridden from Seattle to Portland and from my apartment around the block. I've climbed a 4500-foot mountain on nothing but a bottle of water, and on other days I've gone out and pounded miles which were fueled by three Double Quarter Pounders from McDonald's.

Last night's ride was relaxing and almost impossibly slow. I'm used to getting on my bike for specific purposes - for increasing my fitness, for bettering my awesome spandex-induced tan lines, for clearing my head after a long day. I'm used to riding 30 miles with impunity and 80 with ease - last night we road 5. Optimistically. And I loved it.

The reason it's been on my mind is because it was so mundane, and because it was impossibly
fun. When do I take the time like that to do something that doesn't have a clear objective? I remember what Billy Collins said once at a BYU Devotional:

"The oldest subject in poetry is carpe diem. The reason you're asked to carpe your diems is that you don't have many diems left. The more you see your days as numbered, the more grateful you'll be for those moments you have."

I've tried to live by that quote, but I'm starting to think that I haven't ever really understood it, and that I'm just beginning to have a better idea of what it means to me. I try to fill my days with meaningful activities so that when I hit my pillow I haven't wasted life, haven't wasted those 1440 minutes which were given me that day. But I don't think I'm very good at thinking about my days as I'm in them, instead looking ahead with laser focus at what I see in my future. It's easy to do, because I've a bright future and no reason to expect otherwise. But even if I'm working hard and looking to the future, I'm forgetting how to carpe a crucial component of my diems: the part where I sit back and enjoy the ride.

That's why last night's ride with my new gang was so useful for me. I need to tell myself to slow down, to stop and smell the roses, to sit up on my bike saddle and look around at where I am - because if I don't remind myself, I won't do it. Being worried about where you're going is great until you realize you're there and you missed the journey.

I don't want that. Do you? This one is from Kerouac:

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware."

Someday, when it's time to look back at my life, I don't want to see a series of precise actions that were totally logical and perfectly executed. I'd rather see course corrections as I change my mind and seek to live deliberately. Twists and turns and bends in the road of life that mean that I was trying to suck the marrow out of it, to find my best path and my best me. I want my life to be filled with friendships and activity and smiling and meaning and life.

We've decided that we're going to meet on Sunday nights, and our agenda involves cruising the strip, intimidating other gangs and trying to fly under police radar. My agenda involves sitting up and slowing down, grinning at other riders and enjoying being in the middle of the pack instead of always rushing to the front. My agenda involves having fun and nurturing relationships that matter, enjoying myself and living life for the joy of it. But I meant to be talking about cycling.

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